Saturday 23 September 2017

Data Commissioner warns Irish Water over its customers' details

There are still many unanswered questions in relation to water charges
There are still many unanswered questions in relation to water charges
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

THE Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has asked Irish Water to be more "transparent" in relation to the handling of personal information.

There has been widespread concern raised about the requirement on 2.2 million customers to provide data such as PPS numbers to the semi-State quango.

In response to queries by Independent TD Roisin Shortall, Deputy Data Protection Commissioner John O'Dwyer said he agreed that the company needs to provide greater clarity in relation to its handling of PPS numbers.

"We are satisfied from this Office's interactions with Irish Water that it is intended to use the PPSN for the sole purpose of confirming the qualification for a free water allowance of occupants of the household (including children) and in line with conditions set down for its use by the Department of Social Protection," he said.

"However, we are in agreement that the Data Protection Notice published does not currently give sufficient clarity and detail in this regard and we are corresponding with Irish Water and providing our views on this," he added.

The concern raised by the DPC came as Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton described the introduction of water charges as "the right choice" and warned that the water system in Dublin is on a "knife edge".

The government faced calls for a second day to abolish or suspend the introduction if water charges following claims that many supplies across the country are unsafe.

A former Labour TD, Tommy Broughan, yesterday said the government should use the next general election as a "referendum" on the charges themselves.

But speaking during Leader's Questions, Mr Bruton rejected criticism from the Opposition and said the Government has no plans to scrap the charges.

The Fine Gael Minister was responding to claims by Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald who said water supplies in places like Roscommon are unsafe.

Families

Ms McDonald said the Government's claim that it is introducing a "neutral Budget" are disingenuous because of the rollout of water charges in January. "Is it neutral to land an additional bill on the doormat? How is it neutral to ask families who are just keeping their head above neutral to pay just another bill," she said.

Mr Bruton said that while he accepts the public's anger in relation to another bill, water charges must be introduced.

"Of course we recognise - we recognise that people don't like paying for a charge that they didn't have to pay for before.

"This is absolutely a correct way to manage a very expensive resource in which there have been years of under-investment.

That's the choice we made, and I think it's one that we can absolutely stand over," he added.

Independent deputy Tommy Broughan called on the government to suspend the water charges until after the general election.

Irish Independent

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